Friday, May 30, 2003

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Had lunch today with several of my ex-coworkers, and I was reminded by the wise and beneficient Stupid Llama that I had promised to write about the movies I'd seen lately, and of course he's absolutely correct. So, that time has come.

Of course, being unemployed means one has more time to sit around and watch movies, which is just fine until the money runs out...I recently took the opportunity afforded by my dole check to rent several films that I had been curious about but hadn't seen yet for one reason or another. So...I'll just go through them in alphabetical order, since I don't really remember which ones I saw first. Or maybe I just don't want to think about it all that hard. Anyway. First up:

Amelie, which is a movie that you might want to have an insulin injecton before watching because it's just so gosh damned sweet. But, miraculously, it never becomes unwatchable because it's so imaginatively directed. It's whimsical and entertaining and charming in spite of itself. I was shocked, I tell you, shocked to discover that the same fellow responsible for City of Lost Children and Alien: Resurrection did this film. You should see this, but only if you have a high cutesiness tolerance.

Catch Me If You Can, Steven Spielberg's based-on-a-true-story account of one Frank Abagnale, Jr.– who got away with impersonating an airline pilot, doctor, secret service agent and lawyer (in all fairness, he passed the Louisiana bar exam) all before he turned 18. he also made himself rich by forging his own payroll checks, which earned him the attention of the US Treasury dept. In this film, he's played by Leo DiCaprio, and say what you will about him, he's very good here as is Tom Hanks as his Fed adversary. It was fun and engrossing and never dragged, even though it was almost 2 and 1/2 hours long. Christopher Walken is also great as Frank's father, a bit of a ne'er do well himself. The trademark Spielberg schmaltz is mercifully abandoned, with one brief exception at the end. Well worth renting.

The Devil's Backbone, Guillermo Del Toro's moody ghost story, is about a near-abandoned Mexican orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, and a grisly secret shared by a couple of the kids and one adult. Genuinely creepy and full of imaginative touches, I couldn't help thinking, though, that this would have been just as interesting without the supernatural elements. I especially appreciated the novel setting for this type of film, more often sunlit and bright as not. I also couldn't help but think of Gilbert Hernandez' stories of Palomar in Love & Rockets, and wonder what he thought of this movie. Another recommended rental, and I'm beginning to look forward to the Hellboy movie a lot more.

My daughter ordered Drumline the other night off Pay-Per-View without me knowing (not too happy about that, but oh well...), so I thought I'd watch it since I was paying for it. I would imagine band directors all over the country fainted dead away in bliss after viewing this, which is about as effective a band recruiting tool as you could hope for. It leaves no cliche unturned in its story about a cocky kid from a bad neighborhood who gets a college scholarship because he's a drumming prodigy...but unfortunately for all involved not much of a team player. But don't worry, it all turns out OK and we're treated to a lot of pretty darn good marching band presentations. Orlando Jones, of 7-Up commercial and Evolution fame, plays a somewhat stick-in-the-mud director who is resolutely old-school in the face of modern, hip-hoppish Marching Band routines. It's a little distracting seeing the 7-Up guy in a straight role, but he's pretty good. Worth catching on cable, but don't rent or for God's sake don't pay-per-view. Older High Schoolers and band members might like it, though...

Femme Fatale, for the first hour or so, is a fine heist thriller expertly directed by Brian DePalma, pushing those Hitchcockian buttons as fast and as hard as he can. But he lost me completely by throwing us a totally arbritary plot twist curve in the last quarter of the film, which invalidated almost everything that came before it. I hate it when filmmakers do this; it makes me feel cheated and makes me think that the director doesn't have the courage of his convictions...or is just fucking with his viewer, and not cleverly. Even though the outcome of the plot twist is, as it turns out, a bit more palatable than the events prior, it still pissed me off. The nominal star, Antonio Banderas, gave a typical mumbling, distracted Banderas performance, and really wasn't given too much to do except look confused most of the time. Well, that, and imitate a gay man in an embarrassing mincy fashion in one scene. Many criticized Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's acting; I thought she was a little too low key but otherwise fine. Guess I just have low standards, I don't know. So, I can't recommend this, although it's not really a bad film. Wait for it to come on cable, if you've got to see it or rent it as a freebie if you can.

Speaking of films in which I felt cheated, Insomnia was a big disappointment for me. It wasn't the acting– Al Pacino was understated for once, and not bad, and Robin Williams was, well, Robin Williams on lithium or something. Robin seems to be trying to atone for Patch Adams by playing low-key nutjob psychos, and he's pretty good at it I guess, but he never really convinced me. I heard that Hilary Swank was in the film, but you'd never know it by her miniscule part in which she was asked to do nothing but walk around looking at Pacino's character, who was just as big a creep as Williams'– and that was the biggest problem I had with this film. There was just nobody to care about. By making just about all the leads as unsympathetic as they could possibly be they shot themselves in the foot as far as I'm concerned. So what was supposed to be a fascinating character study of a legitimate killer and his adversary who's not exactly without sins of his own just became a snooze-fest which made me happy only when it was over.

I caught all but about the first 15 minutes of Monsters, Inc. the other night, when my daughter brought home a friend who brought his DVD copy to watch. I don't know what he had in mind, but I ruined it I guess by sitting and watching it with them, heh heh. Anyway, it's Pixar, it's Billy Crystal, it's clever and funny and imaginatively conceived. You've probably seen it already anyway, but I liked it.

Finding myself awake in the wee wee hours the other day, I happened to catch an airing of Ringside Maisie on TCM. Maisie, well played by Ann Sothern (who was a hottie in the 40s, let me tell you), was the subject of about a dozen low-budget films made in the late 30s and 40s about a fast-talking New York gal with a heart of gold and her search for happiness. Here, she gets involved with a young boxer who's being groomed by his fast-talking manager for a run at the heavyweight crown. It all turns out OK at the end, and Maisie ends up with the manager, who was her real-life husband at the time. It was a fun time-waster, and I hope I get to see more Maisie films one of these days.

And that's it! There may have been one or two others, but I don't remember them if there were, so there you have it– my recent movie viewing list. Thanks for reading, and comments are welcome.
Oh, lest I forget...I've added a link at lower right, in the music/musicians section, to the homepage of the little AM radio station where I work part time. You can click on a link there and get streaming audio of our programming, which consists of country, oldies and gospel music, along with a spate of "Swap Shop" type shows, and of course local and state news and weather. If you want to hear me, I'm usually on air M-F from 4 to 6 PM CST and every third and fifth Sunday from 6 AM till 3:30 PM. You won't hear me too much on Sunday, though...I generally say very little and just let the gospel music play in between the hellfire and damnation old time religion preachin' prayin' singin' shoutin'.

Another caveat: it may not work for you if you have a Mac...when I click the link it tells me "This program does not support the protocol for...". This is clearly anti-Mac bias, and I intend to give the computer dude that always seems to be there in the evenings puttering around a piece of my mind. Hmph.
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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of May 28


1. CATWOMAN 19
The last three issues of this title have been significantly more involving than the previous 16, which suggests that Ed Brubaker is simply much better at low-key dramatics than fast and furious action. Of course, it also helps to have a collaborator as gifted and sympathetic as Javier Pulido, no knock on the previous illustrators, some of whom are excellent in their own right. Cam Stewart has a hard act to follow, 'cause he (and Darwyn Cooke, too) have been upstaged. A

2. ULTIMATES 10
Now this is as good as it gets these days when it comes to fast and furious action. It takes more than dropping your action in page-wide panels to acheive a true widescreen feel, and the Hitch/Neary duo have it down cold. Plus, it's got to make it easier when you have a scripter providing you sharp and intelligent events to drop in those panels. A

3. GLOBAL FREQUENCY 8
I'm fairly sure that Warren Ellis most likely wrote this maxi-series in advance, quite possibly before artists were assigned...but his scripts, with their inimitable terse, menacing dialogue is simply so much better when a strong illustrator's at the helm that it makes me wonder. Chris Sprouse and Karl Story, longtime favorites of mine, have melded perfectly with Warren to make this the best entry in this series so far- even though the ending was a little rushed and was a bit too tidy for my taste. And that's been another reoccuring theme so far in this series. Oh well, this is still an excellent book and I kinda wish that Sprouse and Story could just do the next three issues and to heck with the artist-go-round. A

4. JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER 184
Well, the big plot twist in this one kinda left me scratching my head as to why and wherefore but otherwise this was another outstanding issue. It was great to see Marcelo Frusin back on the art chores- I've come to regard his John as second only to Steve Dillon and Sean Phillips. Also nice to see JC and the Swamp Thing have a little tete-a-tete, and makes me think it would be nice to see Mike Carey try his hand on ol' Swampy if he's looking to add a third book. A-

5. JLA 81
There's some bitching about the direction of this book on the internet, but I'm enjoying this three-part story just fine and actually think it's Kelly at his most focused. The art by fill-in artist Duncan Rouleau and Aaron Sowd is significantly better this issue as well, prompting me to wonder if some words (or constructive criticism) might not have been exchanged between pages of #80 and this issue. Anyway, I have no complaints this time out but I'm also looking forward to the return of regulars Mahnke and Nguyen. A-

6. INHUMANS v6 1
I usually enjoy Inhumans stories, of course depending on the creators, so I decided to pick this up even though I hadn't pre-ordered a copy. Wish I could say that I was handsomely rewarded, but this is not the strongest or freshest of premises and the art is somewhat awkward and bland. Still, it's readable and will hopefully get better. B+

7. LEGION 20
I'm not sure how wise it is to totally derail the train of your storyline with a silly and pointless book-length dream sequence, no matter how many nods to prior Legion history DnA jam in. Kinda comes across as padding for a hoped-for trade paperback which, given DC's corporate indifference to this book, is hardly a given unless Abnett & Lanning know something they're not sharing- since as most people who follow this sort of thing know, DC's way behind in collecting the Abnett/Lanning/Coipel Legion run so far. I suppose if you've got to have filler, for God's sake make it well drawn filler and current artists Chris Batista and Mark Farmer are certainly living up to their end of the bargain. So I consider this a misstep, but it's early and the jury's still out on this arc. C+
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Above is a Richard Sala panel from his Evil Eye comic series, which is published by Fantagraphics books. I touched on the announcement they made yesterday, but I thought perhaps I should discuss it a little further. As you probably know, the company is faced with bankruptcy and are asking all its suppporters out there to buy their books and help them raise funds. You can read the official statement by clicking on the Peculia panels above. While that news made my cynicism buzzer give off a faint buzz, I soon realized that they were on the level and the situation is dire. So if you're unfamiliar with the Fantagraphics oeuvre, I suggest you go to their site and click around. Myself, I've been a regular buyer of Love and Rockets, Eightball, Meat Cake, Evil Eye and Hate over the years, and once upon a time subscribed to the Comics Journal- giving it up only after they raised the price, lowered the paper quality, and cranked the cynicism in their reviews up to ten. But don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Journal. I still pick up the occasional copy when it features someone that piques my interest, and have noticed that they've improved the paper quality a lot– but it's still a little too expensive for me to pick up on a regular basis, especially since I'm still getting Comic Book Artist, another expensive publication that I still get a lot of pleasure from.

Anyway- boy, can I digress or what? I just want to encourage everyone out there to consider ordering something from the House That Groth Built...and I've got selfish reasons for doing it: I want to be able to continue to read the above titles! Even as tight as things are getting around Casa Bacardi, I'm considering ordering some of the Eros comics that have caught my eye like the Young Witches (I got an issue in a sampler pack from FB a few years ago–this is hard-core porn but it's very well drawn and plotted. Problem is, my comics shop won't carry Eros books so I haven't got around to searching any others out) trades or some of the books by Molly Kiely (you may remember that I wrote a paragraph about her a couple of months ago). I've always wanted to pick up on some Acme Novelty Warehouse books as well...I suppose this is as good an excuse as any!

And this ends my shameless shilling for Fantagraphics. I don't know if it will do any good, but I thought I should at least try to do something.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

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Happy 100th to old Ski-Nose himself, Mr. Bob Hope.
Good morning! Apologies for the no-show yesterday; I was gone most of the day, running errands and having another "Losers Luncheon" with the others who lost their job with me. Got a phone call from a recruiter whose services I had engaged the last time I was between jobs about a position in Ohio, but it's a type of printing that I'm not all that familiar with so I didn't feel too enthuisiastic about it, I guess. I suppose I could call her back and find out more if I wanted...I was somewhat taken aback when I realized that she was calling me based on a resume I had sent her almost three years ago! She didn't even know that I was looking again! I sent her a current one and fully expect to hear from her again three years from now...

Delighted to see that I'm listed in the most excellent Comics Journal weblog, ijounalista! (sorry, don't know how to make that upside-down exclamation mark at the beginning of the title). It's an honor, and now I'll have to try to write more comics stuff, and write it better, to justify it. Unfortunately, the lead news story for today is a dire one, about the impending bankruptcy of Fantagraphics Books. If you're in a position to help by buying more of their books, then you should do so...I wish I was.

OK, hopefully more later including that paragraph or three about movies I've seen lately. Of course, there will be a Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting immediately following (or on top of this, to be exact...).

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Small personal note. Mrs. Bacardi feeds about 850 stray cats that congregate on our deck every morning. Well, actually only about 6 or 7, but it seems like 850. Anyway, problem is that blackbirds apparently like to eat cat food as well, and they help themselves, crapping all over our deck in the process. I put a bird feeder in the back yard, hoping to attract their attention back there, and it worked for a while but now it seems like the bird feeder I have now is too small for the bigger birds, which have returned to feasting and shitting on our deck again. I'm sitting here typing and watching them swoop back and forth right now. Sigh. Guess I'll have to get another, bigger bird feeder.

I'm gonna get up from here and go watch Femme Fatale, then I'll probably write a paragraph or two about the movies I've seen lately.

I need a job.
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Here's an unusual situation for ya...today marks the birthday of two great horror stars: Christopher Lee (right) and the late Vincent Price (center), were born on today's date. Yesterday marked the birthday of another great genre film actor, Lee's foil in dozens of Hammer horror movies, the late Peter Cushing (left). What are the odds that these great men would be born so close to each other? Anyway, BSBdG's to all three.

Monday, May 26, 2003

While indulging myself in an all-day Mick Ronson music marathon on the JB stereo, here's that long-awaited edition of Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O! In which I list ten of those prehistoric vinyl albums I've listened to since the last edition of JB's MV-O. Here we go:

Rickie Lee Jones-The Magazine (1984) Got in the mood to hear this after Brendan mentioned it a while back. It's probably the most ambitious thing Rickie Lee ever attempted, but it's a bit slick in that early-to-mid 80s production style way so it doesn't really stick. There are two songs which I love on this one: Steely Dan-ish The Real End, with goosebump-inducing horns, and It Must Be Love, which has a gorgeous melody and some nice dynamics.

Foghat-Girls To Chat and Boys To Bounce (1981) A lot of bands, around the turn of the decade, were forced to respond to the Punk and New Wave trends. Many adopted skinny ties and curbed the tendency to write 6 minute songs, making them 2 1/2 or 3 instead, which was the tack that uber-blues-band Foghat took. This thing takes off like a shot with the opener, "Wide Boy" a fast and furious tale of a bouncer of some sort...if the rest of the LP had been as good as the first cut, this would be an minor masterpiece. Sorry to say that it's not. There is one other song of note, a singalong called "Sing About Love" which has an actual hook, something the Hat boys couldn't seem to come up with elsewhere. Actually, I always liked the follow up "In The Mood For Something Rude" a lot more, but I don't have it on vinyl. Never thought you'd run across a conniseur of obscure Foghat albums on the Web, didja?

Debbie Harry-Koo Koo (1981) This album was a colossal flop, despite the popularity of almost everyone involved- Harry, in the wake of Blondie's breakup; producer Nile Rodgers of Chic, which also provided the musical backing, Devo's Mothersbaugh brothers, heck, even cover artist H.R. Giger only a couple of years after acheiving noteriety via his designs for the film Alien. Maybe people were trying to pay Debbie back for the demise of Blondie, who knows. 22 years later, this remains, to me, a fun pop/R&B/New Wave hybrid, a bit dated sounding, maybe, but tuneful and jumping just the same. Faves on this album include "The Jam Was Moving", a funky-poppy thing with Devo-ish BV's; "Chrome", with harsh, abrasive guitars and percussion, and would-be hit single "Backfired", which is probably the most Chic-ish sounding thing here and sounds like some sort of kiss-off to somebody probably forgotten by now.

Sly and the Family Stone's Greatest Hits (1970) 12 groundbreaking, funky, fun, brilliantly played and excellently sung songs for your listening pleasure. Released between "Stand" and "There's A Riot Goin' On", it's not a complete Sly collection by any means but that doesn't make this any less of a great album. One of my 10 favorites, has been in fact since 6th grade when W.T. Stinson (see link at right in the Artists section) snuck his cassette copy in the tape recorder that we were all supposed to be listening to a reading exercise through. It was like a light bulb coming on in a dark room.

Mott The Hoople-The Hoople (1974) Here's another I've often placed on my faves list. One of many important (to me, anyway) records I bought off the record rack at the Ben Franklin five and dime in beautiful downtown Horse Cave, KY, sadly no longer there. The Ben Franklin, not Horse Cave. The last proper album Mott ever did with Ian Hunter, fresh off a tour with Queen and their "baroque and roll" influence is all over this one. It's an amazing assortment of styles, from the Chuck Berry meets Ziggy Stardust opener "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" through the weird, imaginative, theatrical "Marionette" to the calmer Dylanisms of "Trudi's Song". Original guitarist Mick Ralphs had left for Bad Company, and was replaced on this album by one Luther Grosvenor aka Ariel Bender, who contributed some howling solos here and there but really didn't have much to offer as a guitarist, unfortunately, but Hunter's vision for this album is so strong that it didn't really matter. If you've never heard this, or any Mott album before, then you should. Now. Go here for the skinny on one of the best bands that the 70s had to offer.

Procol Harum-Grand Hotel (1973) While I liked them much more than he did, I always thought Christgau's review of this album was kinda funny: "For years, these guys have been vacillating between a menu of grits which certainly ain't groceries and lark's tongues in aspic...Personally, I wish they'd pick their poison and choke on it". OK. Me, I kinda like this album and its next two follow-ups "Exotic Birds and Fruit" and "Procol's Ninth"– their attempts to marry r&b & blues to grandiose classical sensibilities failed as often as it succeeded but was sometimes brilliant, like on the title cut to this album, the lovely "For Liquorice John" and the dancehall singalong "A Souvenir of London" (which I used to play in my stool-and-guitar days), a tale of an unfortunate fellow who got the clap on a trip to England complete with tap-dancing. When it's off, though, like on the endless "T.V. Caesar", it can be an ordeal. My copy is a later reissue, and I still look from time to time on eBay and in used record stores for the elaborate, gatefolded original release.

Cheap Trick-In Color and In Black and White (1977) For a couple of years there, Cheap Trick was one of the greatest American pop-rock bands ever. Then, a couple of years after this came out, they totally lost the plot and only sporadically reached the heights that this album and its successor "Heaven Tonight" did. There's not a bad cut on this record.

Ringo the 4th (1977) Saturday Night Ringo Fever. Recorded during one of his most diffuse periods, in which he often sounded like he couldn't care less as long as someone propped him up at the mike and handed him a lyric sheet, this slick disco record was such a huge commercial disaster that Atlantic dropped him like a hot coal and poor Ritchie didn't record for a major label until 21 years later. But you know what? This is not a completely bad album. Several of the songs are catchy and tuneful, and once in a while it's as fun as it tries to be. So if you run across this somewhere, you could do worse.

Roger McGuinn-Peace On You (1974) I've always been a fan of the clutch of solo albums Byrd-guy McGuinn did in the 70s, especially his self-titled debut and the Mick Ronson-produced Cardiff Rose, but this, the second in the series, has it's highlights as well. It's definitely got that mid-70s El Lay production sound, and many diverse musicians contribute such as Al Kooper and Flo & Eddie. Sometimes the lyrics are a bit dodgy, tending towards sexism and cliche, but the musical accompaniment is first rate. Probably the best cut is "Gate of Horn", a witty reminisce about his early folksinger days.

Carly Simon-Spy (1979) This one's got "Vengeance", a rollicking tune with BVs by Tim Curry, and the title cut, a disco shuffle with a nice flute solo. Otherwise, this is a bland and dull album that was as big a flop as it deserved to be. If you're looking for a pattern in my listening habits last week, there you go: slickly produced late 70s-early 80s albums that were commercial flops for one reason or another.

And there you have it! Look for another Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O, coming soon to this blogspace! Thanks for reading!




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Boy, could he play guitar.


There are certain types of blogfodder that are easy to overuse, and I suspect celebrity birthdays are one of those types. I've certainly taken advantage of them to pad this here blog for sure. Every day I say to myself, "Self", I says, "No cheap and easy birthday posts today"...but I can't help it sometimes- some notables beg for mention, and that's the case today. This day marks what would have been the 54th birthday of Mick Ronson, right-hand man for Bowie and Ian Hunter, and one of the best guitarists, producers and arrangers in rock 'n' roll history, in my humble opinion. Click on the above link to get an overview of his varied career, which ended, sadly, with his death from cancer in 1993.

For this glam-rock loving teenager, Ronson was as cool as it got. Well, next to Marc Bolan, I guess...but Ronson was ten times the musician Bolan was. He had a such a distinctive sound, both as a guitarist and producer, and loads of charisma onstage, as a look at any old Bowie concert film will attest. But he was never a prima donna type like Bowie tended to be; he always came across as accessible and down-to-earth, a regular guy (even in platform heels and makeup!). So here's to ya, Ronno– you're missed, my friend.

Short Ronson discography, listing my faves:
With Bowie: The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Aladdin Sane.
Solo: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Play Don't Worry
With Ian Hunter & Mott The Hoople: All the Young Dudes, Mott The Hoople's Greatest Hits, Ian Hunter, You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic, Welcome To The Club (Live).
As a producer: Lou Reed's Transformer, Roger McGuinn's Cardiff Rose (what a great album), Ellen Foley's Nightout (with Ian Hunter).

Sunday, May 25, 2003

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Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays...

Miles Davis, that very creative and influential jazz composer and trumpeter, posthumously of course. It's only been within the last few years that I've begun to listen to a lot of jazz music; so far I've gravitated to Coltrane, Mahavishnu and Miles. Kind of Blue is an amazing record, and I'm really liking In A Silent Way a lot as well. There are several Miles albums I've yet to hear, and I hope to pick them up someday.

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Also, BSBdG's to Mike Myers. He's done a ton of great flicks (and a couple of not-so-great ones), but I'll always love his turn as Charlie McKenzie and his Dad in So I Married an Axe Murderer. One could, I suspect, fill an entire book with funny quotes from both his SNL stint and his films...and I'll bet someday someone will.
You may have noticed a couple of small buttons at lower right. I intend to link these to the Apple.com site, and to this funny Mountain Dew-aholics site I found this morning. Problem is, I'm not getting my template code when I go to the "edit your template" function. I'm hoping this is another Blogger problem and will be resolved sooner rather than later. Anyway, if you'd like to see the Dew site, click on the link above. Here's the page where I found the buttons; there are many, many more cool ones.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Never too busy for BSBdG's!

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Happy 72nd to the great Bob Dylan, regrettable moustache and all. Favorite Dylan albums include but are not limited to Blood on the Tracks, Bringing It All Back Home, and Slow Train Coming.

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Also happy 48th to Rosanne Cash, who's one of the best female songwriters Nashville has to offer but has kept a low profile over the last few years. Faves include Interiors and King's Record Shop.

Click on the images to be taken to their websites.
Hello there everybody. I'm still alive, but try as I might to sit down and write something, I always seem to get interrupted, or have someplace to go and something to do lately. I've seen some interesting movies lately, like Amelie, Ringside Maisie (I'm tellin ya, man, that Ann Sothern was hot in the 40s!) and Donovan's Brain (gotta love that TCM), and have been listening to some great music as well. Hopefully I can squeeze out a new Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O before the weekend's over.

No news on the job front; I'm still playing the waiting game for the most promising situation that I'm aware of, anyway...I've made some phone calls and talked to some people, but until they get finished screening internal applicants I have to bide my time. I decided to give the two recruiters a call whose services I'd engaged but hadn't heard from in two weeks. I think I surprised them, because they both sounded a bit flustered that I called them rather than vice versa! One said there were a couple of situations that he was keeping an eye on, and the other confessed to not having done any real searching yet (excuse: working at her full time job-cry me a river) but since she was off today would try to look into a couple of things, and would I be interested in Nashville? I'm not real crazy about moving that far, although I do like Nashville and since I don't want to rule anything out I said,"sure". That was the last I heard from her. Sigh. I also put a new resume on Career Builders.com, to go with the one I've already got on Monster.com. It was my experience previously that doing that mostly increases your spam...

I also got together for a few beers on Wednesday with 7 of the 8 people that got seperated when I did. We had a good time and it's looking like we'll meet like this on a regular basis. Until we all get jobs, I suppose...one person brought up the possibility for me of teaching a part-time graphics software applications (you know, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) class at Western Ky. University. She had done this during the last semester and was going to do it again, and they were looking for someone, so she graciously offered to give them my name. We shall see...although I just can't see myself trying to teach, it would still look good on the ol' resume.

Been trying to keep up with the Annika Sorenstam thing...looks like she missed the cut. Too bad, I was hoping she'd make it. My White Sox are floundering along, winning one, losing two, winning two, losing three and so on. It's obvious to me that Jerry Manuel can't cut it as manager. Maybe it's because I've had his last two closers on my Fantasy teams, but he drives me insane with the way he manages his bullpen, and the team is flat and lifeless. He's gots ta go. NBA? NHL? Sorry, don't care. The only NBA teams left I could root for are looking like losers, Detroit and Dallas, and I can't stand either the Devils or (especially) the Mighty Fricking Ducks of Anaheim, an abomination of a team if there ever was one. Whenever I see that logo of Donald Duck in a Jason mask, I want to hurl.

Went last night to Horse Cave Theatre with my daughter (who's working as concessions manager there, among other things) to see the final rehearsal for the season-opening play, "Fully Committed". It was an amusing one-man performance piece that became a bit wearying after a while, but was still fun. The actor, one C.W. Gilbert, did a great job in a difficult role. He had to adopt a number of very different personas as a restuarant reservation booking agent who has a nightmarish day. Oh by the way, my son is also working there as a master carpenter. Pretty soon we'll be running the place.

Sad news from DC Comics- they've changed their message boards. The old DCMBs we all knew and loved are gone, replaced by the standard WB board template, and it's somewhat user hostile for sure. Right now, I can't see me posting much there anymore, but I'll update the link at right if you wanna check them out.

Guess I gots ta go too, it's very late. I'm not sleeping much these days- my schedule's all messed up and being unemployed is not conducive to restful slumber anyhow- but I gotta try. Hopefully I'll be back with more later today. Oyasumi Nasai.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of May 21


1. DAREDEVIL 47
Every month, this is the best book that comes out in its particular week. Bendis and Maleev are just unconscious right now, they're so good and in sync. A

2. LUCIFER 38
A bit more happens in this issue compared to last, which makes it livelier if not necessarily better. Once again, Mike Carey shows his writing chops, weaving a complicated script with a complicated cast and doing it with aplomb, and the tag team of Dean Ormston and Peter Gross/Ryan Kelly illustrate it with skill. Ormston's opening scene is just as creepy as it was two issues ago, and I don't creep easily. A

3. MIKE MIGNOLA'S B.P.R.D.: THE SOUL OF VENICE 1
Ryan Sook has nothing on Mike Avon Oeming when it comes to Mignola-ness, and Mr. Oeming does a bang-up job of aping the master in this somewhat plot-light, but no less fun, adventure. A

4. ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL 1
Speaking of Mr. Sook, here he is, curbing his Mignola tendencies for once and delivering a rock-solid Batman adventure in tandem with Dan Slott, whom I'm totally unfamiliar with but understand he's done some Batman Adventures-type stories. He's good, and this is a great book, but I'm kinda wondering why this is getting its own mini-series when this story would have fit in any of the ongoing Bat-books with ease. Hopefully the reasons will become more apparent with subsequent issues. A

5. SLEEPER 5
This book just keeps getting smarter and sharper with every issue. It's one of the smoothest blends of superhoics and dark, noirish mood I've seen. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then by all means get this. A

6. BEWARE THE CREEPER 2
This book is a failure, plain and simple, and the script is the chief culprit-it's cliched and hackneyed, and totally squanders a clever premise with too much expository dialogue and too many clumsy Lucy-show type cameos by painters and poets that are certainly worthy of further research, but unlikely to inspire such due to the hamhandedness of their spotlight. Cliff Chiang's art is fine but unexceptional. Actually, the sole creator that distinguishes himself is colorist Dave Stewart- the hues on this comic are beautiful. C+

Also finally got a copy of SUPERMAN: RED SON 1. I'm hot and cold on Elseworlds stories, usually cold, but this one is a keeper with sharp, non-cliched scripting by Mark Millar and great art by primo cover guys Dave Johnson and Andrew Robinson, who together acheive an almost Chaykin-ish look. There are two issues yet to come, and I've seen series like this skip the rails before- so I'm going to be cautiously optimistic that these guys can maintain the quality. A

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Well, after surfing around and checking out some opinions and whatnot on last night's big Buffy finale, it seems the consensus is that while it was a bit of a letdown, it was an overall satisfying conclusion to the series.

Myself, I think that all things considered they wound it up nicely, if not neatly. I suppose it was left to Joss Whedon to come in and try to clean up the mess that the season became.

Things I liked:

The D & D game.

Principal Wood's little speech upon entering Sunnydale High at the last fight. In fact, Wood was good throughout, especially in his scenes with Faith.

The dialogue throughout was sharp, which once again indicated Whedon's hand at the helm.

Willow's joy when casting the big empowering spell. She had it coming.

Spike bringing down the house. Payback time for the indignities suffered at the hands of the First.

The destuction of Sunnydale. Can't understand why anybody wanted to live there anyway.

Things I didn't like:

Anya getting the chop. I know that it was inevitable that some of the gang was gonna get it, but I had grown to like her character, especially last season. While I was never really sure exactly how much of a demon she still was, I would think that she would be resurrectable somday...at least she had the funny "think of bunnies" scene before she went down. Kinda would have liked to have seen Xander a bit more upset about it.

That whole amulet which "just happened to be the key to victory" business was so typical of the oh-by-the-way type plotting which typified season 7. Someone more cynical than I might say that the amulet existed solely to work Angel into a couple of episodes.

Seeing Nathan Fillion play such an evil jerk, after liking him a lot as Firefly's Captain Mal Reynolds, was annoying.

In general, that was my problem with the whole season: lots of interesting characters, occasionally gripping plots and dialogue, but jeez Louise I wish someone had sat down and plotted the season from episode 1 till the last and made this whole thing more coherent. Depending on the episode, people vanished and returned with no explanation, acted out of character, and gave long and only occasionally effective speeches. Like Peter David says, why didn't the First simply blow up Buffy's house, like he did the Watchers' HQ? That season 7 was as successful as it was is amazing.

The ending certainly left open the possibility of a sequel, or at least a reunion movie or two at some point, so while it may be goodbye, it's not forever. All in all, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series was always at least interesting and different, and at its best was absolutely brilliant. I'll miss it, for sure.

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BSBdG's to Fairuza Balk, 29 years young today.
In the spirit of better late than never, here's that This-or-That Tuesday.

May 20: Even More Potpourri...

...because it smells delicious!

1. Large or small family?
Relatively (no pun intended) small. I'm an only child, and while I have a fair amount of uncles, aunts and cousins, it's not as big as many I know.
2. Potato chips or pretzels?
Depends. With hamburgers, hot dogs and that sort of thing, chips. With beer or as a seperate snack, pretzels.
3. House or apartment?
House. In my possesion(and the bank's) since 1985.
4. Zebras or giraffes?
Aaah, who cares?
5. Candles or potpourri?
Candles.
6. Flowers or trees?
Both have their charms
7. Right or left-handed?
Right handed. There's nothing at Ned Flanders' Leftorium for me.
8. Model trains or dolls/stuffed animals?
None of the above.
9. Comedy or drama?
Like 'em both, sometimes at the same time.
10. Thought-provoking question of the week: The city of Boston has recently banned smoking in all restaurants and bars. Would you want to see such a law passed in your city/town/country, or not?
No, because I dislike either/or solutions. Compromises are not always a sign of weakness or a bad thing to be avoided at all costs. I'm not a regular smoker, unless you count the occasional cigar, but I respect the right of those who choose to be to ruin their lungs...and I think the perils of second hand smoke are exaggerated.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Like I said, I'm back, but I'm still not feeling my writing oats just yet so I'll try not to waste your time too much.

Looking forward to the Buffy finale tonight. While I'm afraid the last season has turned into a bit of a mess, with too many characters and plot holes and contrivances and so on, it's still watchable, excellent even on occasion, and since I do care about these characters I'm willing to put up with almost anything. It just seems to me like they've had to stretch about 6 episodes' worth of story over an entire season, and the stitches show.

Saw the Matrix Reloaded over the weekend. All I can say right now is that I thought it was better than most of the reviews I've read did, but not much. I think they tried to cram too much in and might have been better served with a slightly more streamlined approach. My favorite new character was that Keymaker fellow...what a great idea. TMR was another movie that left me wondering why people are such poor shots in action movies. The baddies (and good guys, too) fire clip after clip after clip and only actually hit anyone once in a great while. I found it a little far-fetched that the Agent that was falling off that building with Trinity only plugged her once...he was only about 12 feet away, and was aiming straight at her! And she wasn't twisting or dodging or anything! I know, I know, just go with it. Creative license. But overall, I liked it. Really. Damn fine action film, all things considered, even though the CGI was a bit obvious in places. The technology just isn't there, but it's coming. Also, I wonder about Zion: who makes the clothes these people wear? And where do the get them? Do they make them at home on a sewing machine? And why was the ship control center all 2001-ish while the rest of the people in Zion were all second season Classic Trek-ish, or maybe more like Kahlua ad-ish?

I long for someone to do a Matrix satire with Pee Wee Herman as Neo.

I went last night to Lexington, KY to see the acoustic Strawbs. I wrote about the Strawbs a few months ago, and have been looking forward to this show for what seems like ages. While the actual web-casted show was only an hour long (and had too much inane prattle from the host), it was marvelously played and sung, and I was in awe at these fellows who made a lot of the music I loved so much as a young man (well, younger than I am now, anyway- and I still love the music). Because the other people on the bill couldn't attend (a folk singer that I was unfamiliar with who was scheduled to play with Natalie's pa Lloyd Maines), the Strawbs played a two-song encore after the filming was over. Afterwards, they came out for a meet-and-greet and of course I took the opportunity to geek out a little. I purchased their latest, self-released CD Blue Angel, and got each to autograph it for me, and got my picture made with Daves Cousins and Lambert. I'll post them here when I get them developed. They were all three nice and gracious, and spoke with me at length, and I think if I had wanted to I could have tagged along to a pub with them...but I didn't want to push my luck. Great show, and it was equally great to meet Cousins, one of my songwriting heroes. I think the webcast will be archived at the Woodsongs site in a week or two.

My eBay winning streak continues: I won the next Kane graphic novel in line for me to read, book #3, Histories. Great Paul Grist stuff. Also, I received today two Eels CDs: Souljacker and Daisies of the Galaxy. I've worn out my son's copy of Daisies, I'm sure he'll be glad I've finally got my own. I also listened to his copy of Souljacker for a while; mine's not the limited version with four extra songs, but that's OK, I can always copy 'em off and burn 'em on a CD if I want. "Daisies" is a great album, one of the best crazed genius-type pop albums I've heard in a great while. I have a soft spot for those crazed geniuses- I'm still mulling over whether or not to get that new Fleetwood Mac.

OK, I'm done. I might still post a This-orThat Tuesday later, but now I'm gonna go watch the Devil's Backbone, then I gotta run some errands.

Thanks for your patience during my little sabbatical.
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BSBdG's go today to the lovely Jane Wiedlin, by far the most beautiful Go-Go and creator of some darn fine music on her own as well, especially her underrated solo debut. Click on the image above to go to a profile page. She has a website, but my browser didn't want to load it. Click here if you want to try it for yourself. She also is fond of wearing corsets and corset-type apparel, as evidenced by the above picture...if you'd like to see more, go here.

Friday, May 16, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of May 14!


1. H-E-R-O 4
Great finale to a wonderful new book's first story arc. I especially appreciated the lack of overblown dramatics. That being said, the actual resolution seemed a bit pat, but it was heartwarming nonetheless- so much so that gets it by as far as I'm concerned. That and the excellent art by this Kano fellow. A

2. BATGIRL YEAR ONE 6
I'm still digging how all these multiple plot threads are being woven together- especially the humorous but vicious Bug team and the relationship between Babs and Dick. The secret weapon, the MVP of this title if you will is Alvaro Lopez, and his wonderfully expressive fine line inking style. A

3. FABLES 13
What appeared at first to be a short-term story arc turns out to have serious ramifications for at least two major characters. Great plotting and dialogue by Willingham, nicely drawn by Lan Medina and excessively inked by Craig Hamilton. Not that his inks are bad, but sometimes I think you could cut your finger on his ink lines! Why not let Leialoha ink Medina sometime? A

4. GOTHAM CENTRAL 7
After the clumsy cliffhanger of #6, Rucka and co. come back strong with chapter two. Note-perfect and solid all the way through, and now I'm very interested in what's going on. A

5. JSA 48
Longtime readers of my ramblings may be aware of how disappointed I've been with this book in the last year or so. Well, I gotta 'fess up: I totally enjoyed last issue, and this one even more. Despite dealing with a multitude of characters and twisty plotlines, Goyer and Johns have maintained their focus with a minimum of contrivance, and this time out managed two touching scenes (Stargirl's stolen kiss and Hector's grieving for his wife) that rang absolutely true. And the Kirk/Champagne art team has improved 1000 percent in the last six months- this was their best effort yet. Great to see Jared Stevens again, and Eclipso too, although he didn't really have anything to do this time out. I've badmouthed this comic and its creative team a lot lately, but when I'm wrong, I'll admit it- and I hope they can keep it up. I may not reconsider dropping this comic after #50, but it's no longer an easy decision. A

6. THE MANY WORLDS OF TESLA STRONG 1
As tired as I am of the multiple versions of Tom Strong and his family that Moore apparently can't get beyond when it comes to the series, I just had to pick this up because of the amazing group of artists that were enlisted to illustrate the lightweight, but enjoyable script. Very nice to see such a significant amount of Jason Pearson art, and Frank Cho (of all people), regular Chris Sprouse, Adam Hughes and long-unseen Jose Luis Garcia Lopez all shine as well. A-

7. POWERS 31
Jesus, Bendis, when I said your scripts were talky I didn't mean it in a bad way...I didn't know how he would follow up the sturm und drang of the last storyline, but a pastiche of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Quest For Fire wasn't it at all. Kind of a slog to read, but as always the Oeming art redeems all. B
Birthdays and passings

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Sad to hear about the death Sunday of Jimi Hendrix's Experience bass player Noel Redding, above right with Jimi, and yesterday of June Carter Cash.

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BSBdG's, though, are in order for Robert Fripp, one of my favorite guitarists and co-founder of one of my favorite bands. He has also been responsible for playing many of my favorite guitar solos, on not only King Crimson albums, but on albums by people like Eno (who celebrated a b-day yesterday-what a coincidence that these two excellent collaborators would be born within a day of each other), Bowie, the Roches, and Peter Gabriel. And he makes me overuse the word "favorite" a lot.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

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BSBdG's go out today to the great Brian Eno- musician, artist and producer extraordinaire who's had a hand in many of my favorite records: Bowie's Heroes, Low and Lodger, Phil Manzanera's Diamond Head, U2's Achtung Baby, John Cale's Fear, Andrew Mackay's In Search of Eddie Riff, his own Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, the great live album June 1, 1974, and of course the first two Roxy Music albums- and this is but a few.

AMG profile
Web site
Index Magazine interview

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

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While I'm in a nostalgic mood, here are a couple of classic Fantastic Four covers that I remember fondly from my dim and distant youth. At left is the first issue of FF I remember owning, #22 (cover date January 1964), in which the Mole Man returned from issue 1 and menaced the Four with a deathtrap in his mountain stronghold. Each member was separated into a chamber designed to neutralize their powers: Reed Richards, for example, was trapped in a room which filled with cement which restricted his stretching ability. The next cover, #35 (May '65), featured the story "Calamity On The Campus" and depicted the FF's struggle with the alchemist Diablo and his creation, Dragon Man, a huge statue which Diablo brought to life with his potions. The Four were visiting the University of which Ben and Reed were distinguished alumni in order to give a speech, Diablo did his thing, and all hell broke loose in that outstanding Lee/Kirby fashion. This story had action, humor, even a little romance (if I recall correctly, it was in this issue that Reed proposed to Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl) and it entertained five-year-old me so much that I still consider it one of my favorite comics to this day.

If you're interested in Marvel's Silver Age (roughly 1963-1970), then you should check out this wonderful site, the Silver Age Marvel Comics Index, which features cover scans from almost every classic Marvel comic of that period, and includes reviews on several. Hours of fun and nostalgia may be had by visiting, plus the opportunity to see those cool covers.
Where would I be without contributions from my correspondents? Here's one sent to me by the Stupid Llama: 10 Things I hate About Star Trek. Funny stuff...
Pundits of the left and right are engaged in a heated debate these days. Is the so-called war in Iraq over, or has it only just begun? Has U.S. might finally made right the fate of the Iraqi people and at long last brought democracy to that troubled land – or has a foolhardy America, with one fist still stuck to the mother of tar babies in Afghanistan, just sunk its other fist up to the elbow in the Gulf? Go here for the rest of the article, sent by the Political Correspondent..
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Sorry to hear about the passing today of Dave DeBusschere, who played for the Knicks back in their glory days of the early 70s. Now, I'm not really what you could call a fan of the Association, haven't been for many, many years...but when I was a kid, I did kinda follow the league and while I gravitated to Phoenix and Connie Hawkins (and of course I loved the ABA because of the Kentucky Colonels), I admired the Knick teams of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and DeBusschere.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Cut and pasted straight from the new Diamond Shipping List, here's my expected haul tomorrow:

BATGIRL YEAR ONE #6
FABLES #13
GOTHAM CENTRAL #7
HERO #4
JSA #48
POWERS #31

Looks like a solid week. The H-E-R-O book is the one I'm looking forward to the most; it's the finale of the first, very well done, story arc. JSA is stronger lately than it's been for some time, and Batgirl is one of the best books DC's putting out lately. Of course, all of this is assuming Diamond can get its shit together and deliver a complete shipment to my beleaguered comics shop. I'm still looking for that Clock Maker #3...
I'm taking a lunch break, so I'll indulge in that fun-filled Q and A session known in the civilized world as This-or-That Tuesday!

*Another Potpourri Edition*

Because we didn't come up with a theme this week! But potpourri is fun, too!

1. Packrat or minimalist?
Most definitely packrat. I've got shit piled up everywhere.

2. Computer: desktop or laptop?
Desktop. Wish I could afford a laptop, but I don't know what I'd do with one if I could.

3. Seashore or mountains?
Hard one. Like both, but I'll say seashore because it's been ages since I've been anywhere in sight of an ocean.

4. Carpeting or bare floors?
Carpet. Bare floors are cold and unyielding, but nice to look at in other people's houses.

5. Drinking water: bottled or tap?
Bottled. Our tap water sometimes has these mysterious floaties in it.

6. Shopping websites: eBay or Amazon?
I patronize both, but tend to get stuff on eBay more often. Just recently I won two Eels CDs and a Kane graphic novel.

7. Cute little kitties or big scary tigers?
Oh, big scary tigers, of course!

8. Front door or back door?
I've never been accused of being a back-door man.

9. Lots of jewelry, or little/none?
None. Jewelry bugs me. Took me forever to get used to wearing a watch!

10. Thought-provoking question of the week: At the last minute, you obtain tickets to an event you're dying to attend. However, you have to work that day! Do you ask the boss for the time off, or just call in sick?
Depends on the job and the boss. My last job, I could have asked off, no problem. But I've worked at a few places where it was necessary to embellish the truth from time to time.
Hello. I'm cleaning out the gutters on my house right now, and this afternoon I'll be helping my Daddy-in-law by moving some stuff out of a house. Good to know I'm not sitting around drunk, unshaven and feeling sorry for myself, isn't it? Actually, I've been doing these things for the last three weeks and felt like a break. I do have some stuff to write about, but it will be later.

Anybody want some maple saplings? They grow extremely well in shingle residue...

Monday, May 12, 2003

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Driving home from work a few weeks ago, I glanced to my left and saw these! Apparently, they're building some sort of dinosaur-themed attraction at the I-65 interchange in the nearby town of Cave City and stuck these up on noth sides of the exit ramp to get attention. Maybe they'll call it Mammoth Cave National Jurassic Park.
Here's some good news: the WB announced that they'll be renewing Angel, with James Marsters aka Spike on board. Found at Ain't It Cool News.

I'm a fairly recent convert to the show myself; didn't watch it at all until the big Faith/Willow guest appearance a while back. I've been watching regularly since, though, and I'm glad it's coming back- the new scenario set up in last week's last episode looks promising.
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While surveying the DC Comics Message Boards this morning, I saw a link in a thread that took me to the site of yet another incredibly talented new artist, Nick Derington. Click on the picture above to go to his site and see for yourself! I like that "click on the picture" trick, can't you tell...
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Several noteworthy people celebrating birthdays today, including Steve Winwood, Yogi Berra, George Carlin, Burt Bacharach, and posthumously Ian Dury. But I'll concern myself with the above celebrants, Ian "Mac" McLagen, keyboardist for the Faces and the purty Samantha Mathis, of Broken Arrow, Thing Called Love and Pump Up The Volume movie fame. Click on the images to be taken to a great Faces website and a Samantha fan page, respectively. BSBdG's all around!

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Third Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)High
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Eeep! This is one of the stranger online quizzes I've taken lately. Found at my newest link, Very Black- a fellow Kentucky blogger. Maybe she's Jack's sister, who knows. Here's another quiz I found there:

professor x
You are Professor X!

You are a very effective teacher, and you are very
committed to those who learn from you. You put
your all into everything you do, to some extent
because you fear failure more than anything
else. You are always seeking self-improvement,
even in areas where there is nothing you can do
to improve.


Which X-Men character are you most like?
brought to you by Quizilla
Getting back to the X-Men movie, I ran across this review of the recently reissued mid-80s Marvel Graphic Novel God Loves-Man Kills, which of course I've never read, on a site ominously titled www.thexaxis.com. Surprisingly, it's not all X-comic reviews.

The review goes on to point out the similarities between GL-MK and X2, of which I was blissfully unaware...these people know a lot more about X-Folk than I do. Anyhoo, I found it interesting and I hope you do too, if you click this link.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Time now for Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O!

These are (hopefully) short capsule reviews of the vinyl LP's I've listened to in the last week or so. All opinions generated are my point of view and are in no way to be intended to be taken as gospel truth. Unless, of course, you just want to– which you're very welcome to do as far as I'm concerned.

Rolling Stones-Tattoo You
It's a bit of a hodgepodge, true, but it's also by far the best album they did in the Eighties, if nothing else than for the magnificent side two which was probably the purest R&B they did since the very early days. Tracks 7-11 for you CD listeners. The first side's not bad but just doesn't hit the same groove for me.

Van Morrison-Hard Nose The Highway and His Band and the Street Choir
Accepting it as a given that Van's eight-album streak from '69-'74 produced no bad records, these two fall at the bottom end of the spectrum...but that doesn't mean that they're not full of great songs. Hard Nose is the more innovative of the two, and His Band is, to my ears, the most straightforward. Hard Nose sounds a little fatigued; two years removed from his biggest hit, His Band's "Domino", his career was at its peak and there must have been a lot of record company pressure placed on him to follow it up. To his credit, he responded with an innovative album full of choirs, Muppet songs and jazzy odes to Autumn and the obvious choice for a single "Warm Love" should have been a huge hit but wasn't. Reacting to this, he then retreated even further, to the acoustic jazz-folk-blues of the superlative Veedon Fleece. As a whole, there are some flat spots but it's a fine record nonetheless. Getting back to His Band, like I said, very straightforward and earnest in its folk/R&B styles and is very enjoyable– but side two really drags.

Fleetwood Mac-Future Games and Bare Trees
What we have here are two albums from that dimly remembered post-Peter Green and pre-Lindsey and Stevie period of Fleetwood Mac, when Bob Welch's rilly mellow, spacey musings were the order of the day. Games isn't really all that great a record...it's overall murky and soemwhat tuneless, but it does have a couple of highlights: the longish title track, which has a strong melody and nice, breathy vocals; and one of Christine McVie's best songs: Show Me A Smile, a gorgeous, winsome ballady thing that pretty much laid the template for her subsequent style. Bare Trees, on the other hand, was the first Mac album I ever heard– I bought it because I liked the cover. The songcraft is stronger, and Bob has his finest moment with Sentimental Lady, which he re-covered in 1977 on one of his solo albums but didn't improve it any. Welch's Mellotron-driven The Ghost is another strong track, and the instrumental Sunny Side of Heaven has a beautiful, haunting melody which isn't soon forgotten. For more on the pre-Rumours era Mac, go to Brendan's Letting Loose With The Leptard blogpage– he's written a great piece on the Peter Green/Jeremy Spencer/Danny Kirwan days of the band.

Renaissance-Azure D'Or
This is the only Renaissance album I ever warmed to. They made a sort of prissy, overblown art-rock in the mid 70s which, I understand, has its fervent following but I'm not among them. Vocalist (and former Roy Wood girlfriend) Annie Haslam had an impressive voice, but too often she was asked to carry ten-minute, synth-driven, completely melody-free mini-epic songs that really didn't hang together very well. That being said, I suppose by the time of this 1979 release they realized they were being swept under the Punk/New Wave tide, and this effort reflects that; it's more song-oriented (previously, their idea of a short song seemed to be at least 5:30) and less self-indulgent. Two songs in particular stand out: Friends and Kalynda (A Magical Isle), which are lyrically a bit dodgy but express honest sentiments and are melodically gorgeous. I liked the cover very much, too. I think most Renaissance lovers hate this record.

Randy Newman-Good Old Boys
Now here is a wonderful record. Newman has done much fine work since this 1974 release, but he's never been as consistently sharp, witty, sentimental, winning, and smart as on this one. Most of the attention went to the ironically twisted Rednecks, which was pretty controversial in its day, but there's not a bad track on this LP and it contains many of his best songs: the forlorn Marie, nostalgic Louisiana 1927 (does anybody else remember seeing him perform this on Saturday Night Live back around '76 or so?), and the hilarious A Wedding in Cherokee County. Not long after, Randy discovered synthesizers and modern production techniques and his music took on a gloss that this album thankfully lacks– and his recorded output hasn't been the same since. If you've never heard this, please, PLEASE go out and score a copy somewhere. It's a staple in my all-time top 25 list.

Lou Reed-Coney Island Baby
By the time (late '75) this little long-player came out, Lou had released both Sally Can't Dance and Metal Machine Music, and between the amusicality of the latter and the slovenliness of the former, people were beginning to run out of patience a bit. But then out of the blue he gave us this, which was so open and sincere that many assumed he was putting them on again somehow; it really faked a lot of folks out. Many years later, it still stands up as a solid record– and while I kinda prefer the more hit-and-miss efforts like Sally and Berlin, I like this one a lot, especially the title track, the cheery Crazy Feeling and cowbell-driven Charley's Girl, which bops along agreeably .

Neil Young-Time Fades Away
One of four consecutive records which, in my opinion, represent Young's peak along with On The Beach,Tonight's The Night and Zuma. TFA is a compilation of new songs recorded live at various venues on Young's ill-starred Harvest tour, in which he was doing a startling amount of drugging and was also mourning deceased friend and Crazy Horse member Danny Whitten, whose passing he felt in part responsible for. This is not a happy fun record, which is not to say that there isn't humor on it; heck– the closing track, ten minute "Last Dance" is one long extended joke. But there's an edge and a bitterness to this record which makes it a sobering listen, especially in the romping title cut and the loping, biographical "Don't Be Denied". Every cut is a strong one, even the slighter ones like "Love in Mind", a simple piano-only ballad which still evokes resigned melancholy. And, of course, it had that great, crude, scraping mid-70's Neil Young Guitar Sound, which always activates the pleasure centers in my brain.

Nona Hendryx-The Art of Defense
The former LaBelle member did a handful of great, new-wavey funk records with people like Bill Laswell and Talking Heads in the 80's, and while most regard this one as the weakest of the lot, naturally it's my favorite. Fave cuts: surging, soulful uptempo ballad "Soft Targets" and the harsh, synth-driven reggae "Ghost Love".

That'll do for now...see, I said I'd write some more music stuff eventually!
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You may remember me mentioning, in the past, my predilection to being attracted to female violinists, or fiddlers if you prefer...apparently I'm not alone. Here's a site called Fiddle Chicks.com, which is devoted to, that's right, fiddlin' chicks. And to up the ante a bit, here's Beauty In Music.com, devoted to female musicians who play all sorts of classical instruments. You just never know what you'll find on the old World Wide Web, do you.
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BSBdG's today go out to good old Donovan Leitch, of whom I've been a fan since I head "Atlantis" way back when I was eight. I've always felt Don got a bad rap and has been unfairly dismissed by many who should know better. This is also one of my favorite album covers, from his 1973 release Cosmic Wheels- an underrated record with a distinctive sound and inexplicably unavailable on CD. Love that guitar. If you'd like to see what the rest of the album's package looks like, click on the image above. It always amused me to think that the big globe behind him was coming to take him back to the Prisoner's island...

I've been a bit slack in writing about music lately, I know. I'll have to see if I can't do something about that later.

Friday, May 09, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of May 7!


1. 100% 5
Romance, lust and love collide in the emotionally charged conclusion to the sci-fi epic! (From dccomics.com) Weeelllll...not exactly. Overdue and somewhat of a letdown in its low-key resolution, but still very well done and if it lacks drama, well, life's like that. Hopefully Paul Pope will revisit all these great characters in the future, and I'll be there when he does. A

2. NEVERMEN: STREETS OF BLOOD 3
If 100% was low-key in its finale, then this was high-key...outstanding resolution to one of the weirdest adventure comics I've ever read, full of odd but clever dialogue and most definitely full of "Hell to beat the band". I'd like to know exactly what happened to Winterbone... A

3. 100 BULLETS 44
Gripping continuation of the Loop/Lono in prison arc. As always, brilliant work by Azzurello and Risso. A

4. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN V2 5
Despite a reprise of the somewhat hard-to-watch Quartermain/Harker tryst in #4, this was, in the parlance, ripping good adventuring. Moore and O'Neill seem to be having more fun this time around than in V1, and I thought they were having a ball then. I don't really want to think too much about Griffin's fate... *shudder* A

5. MR. GUM One-shot
I tried to warm to the Atomics, really I did, but I eventually lost interest and stopped buying it. But when I saw that Jason Bone was going to be illustrating, I decided what the heck, and I'm glad I did. Bone's work is stellar throughout, not only channeling his normal Timm and Kirby influences, but I swear I see some of Wally Wood's humor art in there as well. A

Wow! Five A's in one week!

6. TONY MILLIONAIRE'S SOCK MONKEY V4 1
There's just something about Millionaire's stuff that appeals to my weakness for weirdo whimsy, in both his Maakies strips and his Sock Monkey adventures. Another outstanding episode, marred slightly by an ambiguous and disappointing ending. But hey, plot's not all that important with this sort of thing anyway. A-

7. WOLVERINE/DOOP 1
Well, the good news is that Darwyn Cooke turns in another excellent art job, with help from that J. Bone fellow. The bad news is that it's wasted on a pointless, plotless story that doesn't make sense on a lot of levels. Pete Milligan's proved in the past that he can do better...but I don't know if I'll buy #2 to find out if he does. C-

8. AUTHORITY V2 1
Warren Ellis, come home. All is forgiven! Dull, derivative script paired with wretched, amateurish art. I'll admit that I wished the Authority book could continue somehow, especially after the sorry way it went down before, but good God almighty- this was nowhere near what I had in mind. D

MIA- My store got short-shipped again, so I didn't get CLOCK MAKER 3 or FILTH 10. Neither did any copies of SUPERMAN: RED SON show up...

I also picked up the new COMIC BOOK ARTIST magazine, #24, which was devoted to the glory days of the National Lampoon, which I read a lot growing up. Several great interviews with the likes of Gahan Wilson, Frank Springer (an artist whose grubby, old-school style always kinda appealed to me) and Mary Kay Brown, but due to space limitations a Shary Flenniken piece I would have liked to have read got dropped. C'est la vie.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Is United States foreign policy being run by followers of an obscure German Jewish political philosopher whose views were elitist, amoral and hostile to democratic government? Suddenly, political Washington is abuzz about Leo Strauss, who arrived in the US in 1938 and taught at several major universities before his death in 1973. Click here for the rest of the article.

On the second day of the invasion of Iraq, US commandos seized two Iraqi offshore oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, capturing their defenders without a fight. "Swooping silently out of the Persian Gulf night," exulted James Dao of the New York Times, Navy SEALs (sea-air-land specialists) claimed "a bloodless victory in the battle for Iraq's vast oil empire".
Dao's dramatic turn of phrase revealed more about the George W Bush administration's plans for Iraq than almost every other report from the battlefield. While US forces turned a blind eye to the looting of Iraq's archeological treasures, they moved quickly to gain control over oilfields, refineries, and pipelines. Even before Iraqi resistance had been squelched, top US officials were boasting that Iraq's oil infrastructure was safely in US hands.
Click here for the rest of the article.

Food for thought courtesy of the Political Correspondent.
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Extra special BSBdG's go out today to my Mom, Doris Jeanette Frasier Jones. I was a big fat 6 months old in this picture.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

A Western Kentucky University student is in critical condition at Vanderbilt University Hospital after an early morning fire in her dorm room in Hugh Poland Hall. The student's name has not been released. According to the state fire marshal's office, the fire in Room 214 of the dorm may have been deliberately set and the victim had wounds not caused by the fire. "Apparently this is a crime scene," said Ken Meredith of the fire marshal's office. "There is a young woman suffering from stab wounds." Western Kentucky University spokesman Bob Skipper said the student was in critical condition with extensive burns and other wounds.

This is from the article on the Bowling Green Daily News website posted when this story first broke on Sunday. I mention it here because this is the dorm in which my daughter lived, on the seventh floor! We spent part of the day yesterday moving her out (she didn't plan on attending classes this summer, so it was planned anyway), and she's fine and back home now, with just one final to take tommorow. Still, holy crap! That was my daughter's dorm! If you're interested in further updates on this story, go here and here.

Update: At 7:10 PM last night, the young lady died from her injuries. For the rest of the story go here.
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Click on the image above to go to the official site of Elektra: Glimpse and Echo artist C. Scott Morse. I really like his highly idiosyncratic, almost cubist style. There's also a brief update over at Pulse on what he's got coming out next.
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Happy Bacardi Show Birthday to ol' Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin, who has played many memorable roles on TV as well as movies such as The Natural and, of course, as Ralphie's "Old Man" in A Christmas Story.

A couple of posthumous nods:

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Derek Taylor, left, who was the Beatles', Byrds and Beach Boys' press officer for several years, was a gifted writer- he collaborated on Brian Epstein's A Cellarful of Noise and George's bio I Me Mine, as well as several excellent books on his own like As Time Goes By and It Was Twenty Years Ago Today; produced a Harry Nilsson album, and was involved in many other things during the 60s, 70s and 80s. He would have been 71 today.

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Also, today would have been the 163rd birthday of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Not much of a classical music fan, I'm sorry to say, but I like his Nutcracker Suite.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Time to do a This or That Tuesday, before Tuesday's done...

The Media Edition

1. TV or radio?
Even though I work, part-time, in radio and listen to ESPN radio a lot, I'm still a hopeless TV addict.
2. On the radio: talk or music station?
I live in Music Radio Hell, so it's mostly talk, and mostly ESPN.
3. Actual books or books-on-tape (or e-books)?
Oh, definitely real books, even though I'm having trouble concentrating on them for a couple of years now. I can't do books on tape, especially when I'm driving...something grabs my attention and I've totally lost two or three pages.
4. Actual newspaper, or web version?
I do check out web newspaper pages upon occasion, like the BG Daily Times (hello, Bowling Green! Do you miss me?), Louisville Courier-Journal or USA Today, but I subscribe to the actual Courier and usually buy a USA Today every day.
5. Wall Street Journal or National Enquirer?
Never read the Journal, but I do occasionally skim through an Enquirer when I'm standing in line at the grocery...
6. TV news...news channel such as CNN, or your local broadcast news?
Neither, really. Don't watch news broadcasts very often. Once in a while, local news...but once in a very long while.
7. A movie you've been looking forward to seeing gets bad reviews all around. See it anyway, or pass?
See it anyway. You never know. Depends on what the reviewer says.
8. See movies when they first come out, or wait a few weeks for the lines at the theater to get shorter?
Most of the time, wait. Depends on the film.
9. TV: cable, satellite dish, or just plain old antenna?
Cable.
10. Thought-provoking question of the week: If you had to choose only one form of media to come into your home, which would you choose...print (newspapers, magazines) or electronic (TV, internet)? Why?
Hate to say it, because I still believe in and use print media...but probably electronic. Takes up less space and kills less trees!
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I've been an X-Men fan approximately twice in my life. First time was in the 60s, when I was a kid and picked up those wonderful Lee/Kirby, Thomas/Roth, Drake/Steranko, and especially Thomas/Adams issues of the original, "classic" X-Men. I didn't have every issue, but that was one book that I always asked my folks to buy me on a regular basis, especially the last few issues (#'s 48-65). I took it hard when the book got the ax in 1969. Then, a few years later, when the X-Men were retooled and relaunched, I fell right in and bought those excellent late 70s-early 80s issues with art and stories by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. Unfortunately, after Byrne left the scripts became confusing, unrelentingly pretentious and melodramatic, even when Claremont wasn't writing and the art chores were assumed by lesser talents who epitomized, and in many cases launched, many of the wretched artistic tendencies of the late 80s and 90s. I sadly said goodbye to the not-so-merry mutants about 1985 or so. I just couldn't take it anymore. And with a very few exceptions, like the first trade of Morrison's New X-Men and about two dozen issues of X-Force nee Statix, I haven't touched any X-books since. OK- there were three late 90s issues I bought that had Shang-Chi in them. But that's been about it.

I saw the first movie and thought it wasn't all that bad. Hated the fetishistic black leather costumes (I would think a real director would rise to the challenge of making spandex costumes look acceptable), but overall it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd expected. A great deal of the film was spent just introducing the large cast, and it kinda limited the action until the end.

That's not the problem at all with X2; it's balls-to-the-wall action all the way, and I think it's a better film for it. Among the positives: they finally gave Halle Berry something to do-she was almost invisible in the first one. Ian McKellen– if there's a better actor anywhere, I've not seen him. He brings nuance and subtlety to his character and to the film as a whole. Hugh Jackman pretty much is Wolverine for all practical purposes...I can't imagine anyone else playing him nearly as well. It was interesting to see some of the younger members of the cast get some screen time; Colossus (nice CGI), Iceman and Pyro have significant roles and we get to see some of the other familiar characters such as Kitty Pryde and Siryn. I thought the scene where Magneto breaks out of his plastic prison was very well done, and appreciated how the "good" X-men and the "evil" minions of Magneto were forced to unite against a common foe, and I thought Alan Cumming, a great character actor, was just fine as a chubbier-and-skankier-than-I'm-used-to Nightcrawler.

Although I couldn't help but think of Pete Bagge's Reason cartoon about geek culture while I was viewing it, I thought it was a fine action film that didn't insult the intelligence. It's nice to see that the filmmakers have a growing degree of respect for the source material, and that, I think, is the biggest reason why comic-book based movies aren't the total disasters they were before. While I've been less than impressed with Bryan Singer's other films, including the overrated (in my opinion, of course-everyone else seems to think it's a masterpiece of some sort) Usual Suspects, he seems to be enjoying making the X-flicks and it shows. I believe X2: X-Men United will be all the rage...until Matrix Reloaded comes out, anyway...
According to the new Diamond Shipping List, I'll have the following waiting for me tomorrow:

NEVERMEN STREETS OF BLOOD #3
TONY MILLIONAIRE SOCK MONKEY #1
100 BULLETS #44
100% #5
AUTHORITY VOL 2 #1
FILTH #10
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL II #5
CLOCKMAKER #3
MR GUM ONE SHOT
COMIC BOOK ARTIST #24

Looks like an expensive week! Don't these people know I'm unemployed right now? Oh well. I'm looking forward to the long overdue League of Ex-G (saw the trailer for the film, and I gotta say they made the film, which I'm afraid will be a trainwreck, look real good) and the equally long-awaited 100% 5. 100% is one of the best things I've read in a long time, and while I understand why Paul Pope's late with it, it hasn't made the wait any easier! The penultimate issue of Nevermen promises to be a winner as well. And of course, there's my semi-monthly "aw shit" book, the seven dollar Comic Book Artist magazine...I haven't decided whether or not I want to keep getting it when it changes editorial hands later this year.
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As many of you are aware, I'm a big fan of the art of young Vera Brosgol, aka Mishmow, aka Object of My Extreme Envy For Her Amazing Art Skills. She, along with friends Bill Mudron and Jen, whose last name I can't find and does the webcomic Strings of Fate, have started a sketchblog which promises to sport lots of new art by all of them, and Vera has some beautiful pieces already posted. Go! Look! Click on the illo above!